St. Petersburg – Tristan Byrnes was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who supported the first-ever Transgender Pride event held at the Metro Wellness and Community Centers’ St. Petersburg Nov. 8. He had hoped for 20-30 attendees. Instead, an estimated 60 people participated in the celebration.
“It definitely exceeded my expectations because it’s not always easy getting the T-community out to events,” said Byrnes, who is a gender therapist and transgender himself. “Working with the Metro Centers’ Chris Rudisill was really nice and he and the center were very supportive.”
The night was free to attend and several local entertainers—mostly musicians—donated their time and talents from the stage. It also gave the community a chance to thank the retiring Dr. Kathleen Farrell, a therapist who has helped countless transgender people over her 30 year career.
“We wanted to recognize her and the work she has done while promoting the additional transgender support programs and services we have here at Metro,” Rudisill said. “It was a success and we were thrilled with the turn out.”
While Byrnes was happy that Farrell was honored, he said that the day was planned even before the well-respected doctor announced her plans to retire.
“November is Transgender Awareness month, and Chris and I knew we wanted to do something to recognize that separately from Transgender Day of Remembrance,” Byrnes said. “TDOR is very important and solemn. We wanted to do something that was also a celebration of the victories in the Transgender community.”
Adding Dr. Farrell’s retirement to the mix just made for an even more festive atmosphere, Byrnes added.
While a majority of those in attendance were transgender, there was also a strong showing by allies of the community, Rudisill pointed out.
“I expected some allies to be there and was happy with who I saw,” Rudisill said. “I’m hopeful that next year even more allies will show up to support and celebrate with the transgender community.”
Byrnes is hopeful too, now that Transgender Pride has developed into an annual event.
“I never really thought about this as an annual thing,” he laughed. “But feedback afterward was overwhelmingly positive and people immediately asked about next year’s event. I want the whole community to know they are welcome. We’re open to everyone, transgender and allies alike.”
November, of course, is almost over, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a reason to celebrate and help the transgender members of our community, Rudisill pointed out. He encourages allies to visit Metro’s website and to volunteer at the main campus and the new LGBT Welcome Center on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.
“Check our calendar and get involved with some of our programs that occur on a weekly or monthly basis,” Rudisill suggests. “I recommend that people get involved, take a class and go to events. The more we come together as a community the better.”
For more information, visit MetroTampaBay.org.